Friday, March 23, 2007
The Goracle's Plan
I'm waiting for the second-day stories delving into Al Gore's policy prescriptions to tame global warming. I'm hoping they'll come Friday, or on the weekend, but I haven't got my hopes up . Gore made a radical proposal on Wednesday — enact a carbon tax and offset that revenue by eliminating payroll taxes. The sniggering classes in Washington no doubt dismissed the proposal as stillborn. But given the fact that this country will almost certainly commit to a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system as soon as Bush skulks back to Texas, I reckon it's worth a look by journalists.
For the record, David Roberts at Grist posted Gore's 10-point plan. But I doubt Washington correspondents will cover it in any detail, if at all. They're more interested in political theater. As glorified drama critics, that's what they do. Analyzing science and technology policy is just too complex and boring. Too much bother. Whereas the Goracle pinning the clown from Oklahoma to the mat is much more fun, and much easier to write.
According to Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post, Gore "was trailed by hordes of reporters" during his visit to the Hill. The New York Times gushed that he is "a heartbreak loser turned Oscar boasting Nobel hopeful globe trotting pop culture eminence." And as Kurtz noted, "Boy, coverage like that could have gotten him those last three electoral votes last time."
Of course, coverage like that is not how the Times usually treats Gore, as William Broad's piece last week demonstrates. And the Washington press corp's current love affair with Gore won't last long. As Kurtz notes, " . . . let's get real--it's the mere possibility that he might run for president again that is tantalizing the same media establishment that was long dismissive of Gore. In fact, many reporters seem to be rooting for Gore to jump in and ignoring his repeated denials that he has any such intention. But if he did take the leap, the honeymoon would end within nanoseconds."
I doubt that a second-day story examining Gore's policy ideas — or any other proposals for grappling with global warming — can compete with that political theater. The closest we'll get, perhaps, is yet more stories examining whether Gore got the science right in "An Inconvenient Truth."
We already got one on Wednesday. Hewing to it's usual pattern, NPR slavishly followed the lead of the New York Times with a report from Richard Harris on that subject. Harris reported that "a couple" of scientists approached him after Gore got a standing ovation at December's American Geophysical Union conference to say that "he didn't exactly get the science right." (THE HORROR!) Does any one else find it bothersome that not one of those scientists is actually named in Harris's report? In fact, not a single interview is referenced at all.
To be fair, it must be said that Harris treated Gore much better than Broad did. Overall, the report concluded that Gore did a pretty good job in "An Inconvenient Truth," and that scientists generally are grateful to have such an effective popularizer out there talking about climate change. Also, I'm guessing that Harris's editors twisted his arm to do this report — as a studio interview with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.
Let's hear it for NPR's original and in-depth reporting!
-- Tom Yulsman